With a 28-13 win over the New England Patriots in Sunday's AFC Championship Game, the Baltimore Ravens set up a battle with the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII.
And Harbaughs everywhere can now rejoice.
The first quarter was eerily reminiscent to last year's AFC title game. Both defenses held steady, and the Patriots were only able to grab a field goal, while Baltimore was held scoreless.
But with Pats cornerback Aqib Talib sidelined due to a thigh injury, the Ravens were able to move the ball much more easily in the second quarter. Fueled by a 25-yard completion to Torrey Smith, who beat Talib's replacement, Kyle Arrington, Joe Flacco led an impressive 90-yard drive that was capped off by a Ray Rice two-yard touchdown run.
Not to be outdone, Tom Brady found Wes Welker for a short touchdown to finish off the very next drive. Soon after, Stephen Gostkowski added his second field goal to give the Pats a 13-7 lead at halftime.
But in the third quarter, Flacco took over.
The oft-criticized quarterback looked nearly unstoppable as he led two long touchdown drives, while his defense tightened up and forced Brady and the Pats to unsuccessfully dink and dunk underneath.
A monstrous hit by Bernard Pollard caused a Steven Ridley fumble a few minutes into the fourth, and Flacco immediately connected with Anquan Boldin three plays later to put the Ravens up 28-13 with 11 minutes to go.
The Patriots threatened to work back into contention, but Dannell Ellerbe picked off a tipped Tom Brady throw to seal a trip to New Orleans for the Ravens.
It was a fairly even matchup in terms of total yards, but Baltimore's three takeaways and New England's inability to capitalize in Ravens territory were absolutely crucial.
I'm always shocked to find out the Ravens have 10 other players on defense.— Bob Condotta (@bcondotta) January 20, 2013
When Aqib Talib was forced to the locker room with a thigh injury in the first quarter, Grantland's Bill Simmons noted just how big of a loss it was for the Pats:
Losing Talib is a killer, I can't believe Simms and Nantz didn't play this up. Pats secondary is a house of cards now. Dammit.— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) January 21, 2013
Still, though, because of the following trend, ESPN Stats & Info wasn't exactly nervous for the Patriots:
You have to go back to 1997 (Broncos and Packers) to find the last time BOTH road teams won in the conference championship round— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 21, 2013
ESPN Stats & Info wasn't always on the side of the Patriots, however:
Wes Welker has now dropped 6 passes in the past two postseasons— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 21, 2013
Don't tell Gisele that.
After Joe Flacco led his second drive of over 85 yards to put the Ravens in front, Rich Eisen used the "E" word:
Sneaky elite Joe Flacco with a big-time drive. First of several back-and-forth haymakers to come in this 2nd half.— Rich Eisen (@richeisen) January 21, 2013
Flacco's overall numbers might not be eye-popping (or, at least, at that point they weren't), but he was essentially unstoppable in the all-important third quarter Via Numbers Never Lie:
Joe Flacco had 123 yds and 1 TD in the 3rd quarter #BALvsNE— Numbers Never Lie (@ESPN_Numbers) January 21, 2013
In the end, he finished with 240 passing yards, three scores and zero turnovers. He was undoubtedly the best player in Sunday's contest.
Sometimes, things need to take precedent over football, but that didn't seem to happen when Stevan Ridley took an unusually large hit in the fourth quarter. ESPN's Ramona Shelburne:
That was an incredibly disturbing scene. Ridley just got Pacquiao'd and everyone else seemed more concerned with the dogpile nearby— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) January 21, 2013
Grantland's Brian Phillips noted how little Jim Nantz helped the situation:
"That was some hit by Pollard." --Jim Nantz, breezily, fantasizing about Augusta— Brian Phillips (@runofplay) January 21, 2013
Fortunately, Ridley was able to walk to the sideline on his own power.
Kevin Pelton has a good idea for the Ravens:
Ray Lewis should retire every year.— Kevin Pelton (@kpelton) January 21, 2013
Finally, in case you were wondering (via CBS Sports' Will Brinson):
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